This season has been rough so far, to put it lightly. The Ravens offense has struggled even more than people thought it would, between inconsistent offensive line play, a lack of playmakers, and injuries, the offense hasn’t got much going. Furthermore, the defense has been worse ever since their stellar performance against the Broncos – which is also the last time Terrell Suggs played.
Now, the Ravens have to travel to the desert to take on the Arizona Cardinals. But what’s waiting for the Ravens?
The Cardinals have started this season on fire. Despite 2 losses to teams they really should’ve beaten, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the St. Louis Rams, the Cardinals have looked like one of the best teams in the NFL.
This is largely due to their head coach, Bruce Arians. Since Arians took over the Cardinals, they have been once of the most exciting teams to watch even though they’ve been torn to shreds at certain positions through injury. Last year, they managed a playoff berth on the back of Drew Stanton and Ryan Lindley.
This year, the quarterback situation is a tad different. They have Carson Palmer back. When Palmer played last year, the Cardinals offense was far more effective. Larry Fitzgerald was performing well, as were Michael Floyd and John Brown. Their performance dropped off – most notably Fitzgerald’s – when Palmer went down with a torn ACL.
Now, with Palmer, Fitzgerald is winding back the clock to his stellar form during their Super Bowl run. He is working in all positions, is a red zone threat, he blocks well and he can still catch absolutely anything. John Brown isn’t too bad either. The second year receiver has a nose for big plays and is quickly becoming a favorite target of Palmer’s.
Sep 27, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals running back Chris Johnson (23) celebrates a touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers during the first half at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Perhaps the most intriguing thing about this team, however, is the rejuvenation of their running game on the back of a 30 year old Chris Johnson and 3rd round selection David Johnson. In Andre Ellington’s absence – who is now back – the Johnson duo filled in to form one of the most dangerous rushing attacks in the NFL, averaging 122.3 rushing yards a game. Now, with Ellington back, the running game only figures to get better.
Unfortunately for the Ravens, the offense isn’t the only strength of the Cardinals – their defense is pretty darn good too. They allow just 19.2 points per game (8th in the league), as opposed to scoring 33.8 points per game, and they allow just 328.7 yards per game (6th in the league).
This is in large part due to the secondary. Anchoring the defensive backfield are Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu. Both of these players can be considered among the upper echelon at their respective positions. However, the rest of the secondary cannot be taken lightly either.
Jerraud Powers and Rashad Johnson make up the remaining starting secondary. Furthermore, Deone Bucannon, a strong safety drafted in the 1st round of the 2014 draft, starts at inside linebacker. This makes him one of the most athletic inside linebackers and also means the Cardinals line up with 5 defensive backs in their base formation, which is why they are so hard to pass the ball on.
Sep 27, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals defensive end Frostee Rucker (92) celebrates a safety against the San Francisco 49ers during the second half at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals won 47-7. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Up front they really aren’t too bad either. Calais Campbell, Frostee Rucker, and Rodney Gunter do an above average job stuffing the run and consuming blockers to free blitzers. Even their second string defensive lineman, such as Cory Redding, are making plays.
This game is a must win for the Ravens if they want to stand a chance of staying in the hunt for the playoffs. Unfortunately, they are coming up against one of the best and in form teams in the NFL.
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